Leigh Park Community Centre’s back in the black after a year of hard work

Fareham Borough Council leader, cllr Sean Woodward with parliamentary under-secretary of state from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Dr Th�r�se Coffey MP

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THE future of a vital community centre has been saved thanks to a volunteer.

Councillor Mark Johnson, who represents Warren Park on Havant Borough Council, stepped in as chairman of Leigh Park Community Association in December when there were fears it could go under.

The association, which runs the community centre, had been turned down for a loan of £40,000 by the council and was struggling to make the books balance.

It provides a variety of activities and is home to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, Mind in Havant, Leigh Park and Warren Park Good Neighbours, Havant Day Services and the Meet and Eat Café.

All would have had to look for other premises if the association had folded.

But Cllr Mark Johnson has managed to get the association back in the black by cutting staff hours without making redundancies.

He is to be rewarded for his hard work with a volunteer award from HCCS Community Action – which oversees volunteering in the borough – next month.

He said: ‘In July 2011, I was elected to the position of treasurer and soon found out that the finances were even worse than first feared.

‘It was decided that some drastic measures were needed to save the association from extinction.

‘Some trustees stepped up and some resigned due to the work that would be required.

‘I broke down the finances and started to compile accounts and financial spreadsheets with the help of the county council and the borough council to make the association solvent once again.’

The association has gone from strength to strength since January.

John Griggs, manager of the centre, is one of the six staff to have hours cut.

He said: ‘It was very precarious and obviously we did not know whether we were keeping our jobs or what was happening.

‘We’re very pleased that it’s still going, not just from our own point of view.’

He added: ‘The centre is such a valuable resource for the community and there are over 40 groups here who would have had to find new accommodation if the centre closed.’

Cllr Johnson was nominated by members of the association.

The awards ceremony is being held at Havant’s Public Service Plaza on August 6.